In August Globalstar brought online the last of 32 second-generation communications satellites, such as the one at left. It was part of a batch of six launched into space in February. The Globalstar network, which covers North America and the Caribbean, is fully functioning once again.
Globalstar suffered a major setback beginning in the past decade when its first-gen satellite components degraded (likely due to radiation), preventing downward transmissions to voice
customers. This turned the network into a one-way or “simplex” system, prompting many handset customers to cancel service. (Faced with the reality of a simplex system, Globalstar engineers introduced the highly successful SPOT, a combination tracking device and emergency messenger.)
Globalstar currently offers its GSP-1700 handset, which is also SPOT branded as the SPOT Global phone, both priced at $500. Service ranges from a $25-a-month “emergency plan” to a $150 monthly plan for unlimited voice and data. Data is worth mentioning because the Globalstar data at 9600 baud is faster than either of its big competitors (Inmarsat: 1200-2000 baud; and Iridium: 2400 baud).
As a result a Globalstar handset can be paired with a PC for slow but effective connections for downloading email and browsing the Internet, particularly when using compression software specially developed for the marine market. For transoceanic cruisers and circumnavigators, however, only Inmarsat and Iridium boast a worldwide coverage footprint. Another drawback to the current Globalstar system is that it does not offer two-way texting.
However, Globalstar Southeast Sales Manager Rich Galasso said two-way texting will come with the next generation handset, now in development.
Having launched its new constellation of satellites, Galasso said, the company is now beginning to replace its six North American ground stations with new advanced “gateways.” According to Galasso, the next generation handset will have the same voice clarity but also incorporate the tracking and emergency notification features of SPOT, plus the ability to wirelessly pair with smartphones and tablets for worldwide texting.